Chungking Express Background

Chungking Express Background

Chungking Express was filmed during a break that director, Wong Kar-wai had in the editing process of his film, Ashes of Time. The director wanted to break tradition with his camera and make a work that was more wondering and explorative with the lens. He began principle photography without a fully completed script, but has stated that after working through the first story he had the second written in one day. Tsim Sha Tsui was chosen for a location, and specifically the Chungking Mansions as it has the feeling of the city itself. It’s populated with an enormous mixture of different cultures and races and it was important for Wong to have this setting be a part of his film. The other location is Central where the two main characters meet and it’s also near the Midnight Express (which became the American title for the film). Wong wanted to used locations that he hadn’t seen in films before, and that’s exactly what he did.

The director favored a handheld camera instead of traditional studio set ups, and most notably Wong would shoot scenes in lower frame rates than the standard 24 frames per second, then once printed and shown in the standard frame rate it allowed Wong to emphasize his themes and important moments through imagery. It would make the characters in focus feel disconnected from their surroundings or, like the final shot it would heighten the emotional connection between characters and the response from audience, even when it appears nothing is happening. This style most importantly allows the audience to feel the pace of Hong Kong itself, as its energy is fast and non-stop and thus his imagery became that of the mega city itself. Lastly, Wong Kar-wai’s Fallen Angels was made to be the third story in Chungking Express but because it ran too long, Wong made it into its own film.

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